By MARY KAYE DAVIS
MT. VERNON — There’s a new breed of thieves these days, and they’re not interested in your worldly possessions. They’re interested in your personal information.
Ray Gilbert, a Mt. Vernon Police Department detective who heads the new MVPD Fraud Alert Web site, says people need to be vigilantly aware of potential identity theft; even small bits of information which thieves glean can mean money out of your pocket.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.
According to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, 11,000 Illinoisans were victimized by identity theft in 2005. And while no cost estimates are available on how much money identity theft has cost the state’s residents, it certainly costs people time.
“Identity-theft victims are faced with an overwhelming recovery process that can consume 60 or more hours of their time,” Madigan said.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, credit-card fraud and phone or utilities fraud accounted for almost 50 percent of the complaints; identity theft in general accounted for 43 percent of all Illinois consumer complaints received by the FTC in 2005.
Investigating fraud and identity theft is also costing time at the local police department, Gilbert said.
“These days, a tremendous amount of work is going into investigating crimes that deal with fraud,” Gilbert said. “It takes a lot of time.”
How do thieves
get the information?
There are numerous ways personal information can be stolen, according to the FTC:
n They get information from businesses or other institutions by stealing records while on the job, bribing an employee who has access to records, hacking into computers or conning employees for information.
n They may steal your mail, including bank and credit card statements, credit card offers, new checks and tax information.
n They may rummage through your trash, the trash of businesses or public trash dumps in a practice known as “Dumpster diving.”
n They may steal your credit or debit card numbers by capturing the information in a data-storage device in a practice known as “skimming.” They may swipe your card for an actual purchase or attach the device to an automated teller machine, where the thief may enter or swipe your card.
n They may steal your wallet or purse.
n They may complete a “change of address form” to divert your mail to another location.
n They may steal personal information which they find in your home.
How do they use
n They may call your credit card issuer to change the billing address on your credit card account. The impostor then runs up charges on your account. Because your bills are being sent to a different address, it may be some time before you realize there’s a problem.
n They may open new credit card accounts in your name. When they use the credit cards and don’t pay the bills, the delinquent accounts are reported on your credit report.
n They may establish phone or wireless service in your name.
n They may open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on that account, or they may counterfeit checks or credit or debit cards or authorize electronic transfers in your name and drain your bank account.
n They may file for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they’ve incurred under your name or to avoid eviction.
n They may buy a car by taking out an auto loan in your name.
n They may get identification such as a driver’s license issued with their picture, in your name.
n They may get a job or file fraudulent tax returns in your name.
n They may give your name to the police during an arrest. If they don’t show up for their court date, a warrant for arrest is issued in your name.
There are steps a person can take to protect themselves, Gilbert said. And that includes never giving anyone bank information or personal information. Requests for that information can come over the phone as a sweepstakes guise or over the Internet via e-mails from phony Web sites which use company names such as Paypal or eBay.
In any situation, if you believe someone has stolen your personal information, it should be reported immediately, Gilbert said.
“Time is really of the essence in identity theft crimes,” the detective said. “For example, if you believe your credit card has been stolen, report it immediately. Because it won’t take long to have your card maxed out.”
Gilbert also advises making a photocopy of everything in your wallet — even credit cards not used anymore — because then you have a record and instant access to the information if you need to make a report.
He advises people to review other safety tips on the Fraud Alert Web site at www.fraudalert.mvn.net.
“Identity theft is one of the reasons that I felt Fraud Alert was so important,” Gilbert said. “There are ways to protect yourself.”
Friday: Phony lotteries, “phishing” and Internet scams
By MARY KAYE DAVIS
- City gets $500,000 grant for truck route MT. VERNON — The City has received a $500,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation to construct a truck route to provide access to the Continental Tire North America plant.
TIF getting closer
By TESA CULLI
MT. VERNON — Property owners within a proposed downtown tax increment finance district will be receiving letters in the mail later in the next two days of the city’s intention to approve a plan to implement the district.
Learn to lead
By TESA CULLI
MT. VERNON — The Jefferson County Development Corporation is bringing back the Leadership Series training.
Need a New Year's Resolution? Give blood
MT. VERNON — If you are in need of a New Year’s resolution which will help others, Garry Allison has an idea.
Grandson carries on family's military tradition
By KANDACE MCCOY
MT. VERNON - In 1961, Richard Rybacki was drafted to serve his country and was assigned to Fort Benning, Ga., for his basic training.
- Lay, Skilling convicted in Enron collapse
Granberg: Let's just make sure
By MARY KAYE DAVIS
MT. VERNON — “Not wanting to take anything for granted,” State Rep. Kurt Granberg is meeting with Illinois Environmental Protection Agency representatives next week to make sure a permit the local Continental Tire North America has applied for is granted.
More than 400 women seek health info
By APRIL TOLER
MT. VERNON — Approximately 400 women made their way to the Holiday Inn Tuesday evening to educate themselves about living a healthy lifestyle and about businesses in the area that support women’s health.
Disturbances lead to two arrests
By MARY KAYE DAVIS
MT. VERNON — A 56-year-old man and a teen-ager were arrested in separate incidents Thursday after allegedly causing disturbances.
Hamilton County voters say 'no' to public safety tax
By PAUL LORENZ
McLEANSBORO — Hamilton County voters said a decisive “no” to a public safety tax referendum Tuesday.
- More News Headlines